We returned on Wednesday evening from two days in northern Tuscany and Liguria - firstly visting Castelnuovo in the Garfagnana, then Carrara (where the marble for The David was mined) and then Colonnata, where they make Lardo (or for the uninitiated, cured back fat from a pig)! We then drove onto La Spezia on the coast staying in the cheapest hotel in town before driving the following day through the Cinque Terre (check out Mathew's blog for photos).
To be honest, we were both not that impressed with the Cinque Terre - a bit too overly-tourified for us! Very similar to Venice in that respect. The coast is beautiful and the 5 villages are very impressive, but now that we are used to local food and local prices, we were very disappointed to see how un-Italian the villages have become. As an example...Mathew ordered an "Elvis" pizza at a pizzeria in Monterosso - which happened to be the only pizzeria open. And we weren't able to order our usual 1/2 litre of wine for EUR2...they could only offer a half bottle for EUR6. The other restaurants that were open had extremely expensive "tourist" menus on offer, even though I believe we were the only tourists in town. In a way, cutting off their noses.... I suspect the weather may have played a part in our opinion - it bucketed most of the time, although we could picture how crowded and therefore unbearable the place could be in the height of summer. We did wonder where all the locals were and decided that no Italians actually live in these villages - that they rent out their rooms to tourists and simply manage the properties or restaurants from afar. I know I must sound very ungrateful but I think it's just that we are now very spoiled due to the length of time we have stayed here.
We managed another trip to Florence today to shop at the market for Sunday lunch (visitors) and to lunch at what is now our second favourite place in Italy - Trattoria Da Rocco. And as a pre-lunch snack, Ralph ordered a "Panino con il Lampredotto"at Sergio Pollini's stand. I'm not sure you really want to know what this is, but basically it is the "fourth stomach" of a cow in a roll. Who knew that a cow has four stomachs but apparently it does, and today, we ate the fourth one! I guess it had to be tried once as this is typical Florentine street food and in fact we had to queue with hordes of lunchtime Florentine locals to get our roll. All members of the family (including Mathew!!) had a bite...in fact Ana had three! So another day with another very interesting experience!
I'll post pictures of our tour up north tomorrow.